Brussels in brief, WW200811
European Commission announces first building-blocks of a future super-grid
The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) welcomes the key role given to offshore wind energy in the European Commission's Strategic Energy Review (SER) published this morning, and above all its commitment to publish a Blueprint for a North Sea offshore grid. With 1,486 MW of capacity currently installed offshore and 30,882 MW more capacity planned by 2015, investor interest is high, but the sector needs a European legislative framework, including a dedicated offshore grid to reach its full potential.
"The European Commission has identified <st1:place w:st="on">Europe</st1:place>'s largest untapped energy resources and understands offshore wind power's importance as a clean, inexhaustible and above all indigenous source in a carbon and energy constrained future", said <st1:personname w:st="on">Christian Kjaer</st1:personname>, EWEA Chief Executive. "With its decision to develop a Blueprint for a <st1:place w:st="on">North Sea</st1:place> offshore grid, the European Commission is addressing the key barrier to unlocking its massive potential".
Although nine countries - one-third of the EU Member States - now have operational offshore wind farms, up from just five 11 months ago, the offshore electricity infrastructure needs to be vastly improved and the overall electricity grid updated and reinforced. Crucially, the European Commission gives one of its aims in the Strategic Energy Review as to "ensure the development of the grid to permit the achievement of the EU's renewable energy objectives".
"An offshore grid and increased interconnector capacity will allow large amounts of offshore wind energy to be integrated into the electricity network, while improving the functioning of the internal electricity market" Kjaer stated. "This will reduce consumer electricity prices, avoid fuel and carbon costs, create jobs and help curb <st1:place w:st="on">Europe</st1:place>'s increasing dependence on expensive and environmentally harmful fuel imports from unstable and unpredictable regions of the world."
A section of the SER is devoted to the importance of renewables. It gives the Commission's intention to identify and tackle barriers to their development, starting with the tabling of a communication entitled "Overcoming barriers to Renewable Energy in the EU" in 2010. This decision demonstrates that the Commission is aware of the need to reduce obstacles and is actively taking steps to do so.
The SER will provide the basis for an Energy Action Plan, which should be adopted at the Spring Council 2010 and form the new EU energy policy.
 The figure is made up of the offshore wind farms in the EU that are operating, under construction or envisaged to be online by 2015. The latter are projects that have submitted official applications or are in an advanced state of development. Changes or delays could result from supply chain constraints, planning or grid issues and some may not reach construction phase.